Braising

Fanny defines  Braising: “To cook slowly, usually covered, in a little liquid or fat, often on a bed of aromatics.”

 

Recipe I

Braised Pork Chops with Apples and Sauerkraut

Equipment

  • A saute pan with a cover. (should be 10” – 12” in diameter)
  • A fork and or tongs
  • A plate large enough to hold the chops.
  • A wooden spoon

Ingredients

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2 large bone in pork chops about 1.5 inches thick

1 tablespoon of cooking oil or enough to cover the bottom of the pan — should be about 1/8” of oil in the pan. You can add the oil in small increments if you prefer not to use the measuring spoon,

Black Pepper and Coarse (Kosher or Sea) salt for initial seasoning of the chops.

1 can (28 oz..1 lb) of sauerkraut approximately or a 1 lb package of refrigerated sauerkraut — usually sold in or near the eggs, cheese etc.

1 bottle of apple juice like you get in a convenience store.

1/2  glass of white wine.

1 large apple (pick your favorite) peeled, cored — see picture below.

2 tablespoons of brown sugar — light or dark.

1 small onion peeled and chopped up finely — not diced which means cut in itsy bitsy pieces. Fanny has a picture.

1 clove of garlic chopped very finely.

Before you start

  • Bring the chops to room temperature.

TIP: A lot of people start off with refrigerated meat. This means that part of the cooking time is taken up bringing the temperature of the meat up and partially cooking it. Not a great idea

Remember: Cold meat fights the cooking process.

So. . . Dry the pork chops with paper towels. Then sprinkle them with salt and pepper on both sides.

TIP: If you do not thoroughly dry meats, poultry etc. moisture will hit the oil and splatter — ouch!!!   Premature age spots!

  • Chop the onions on your cutting board
  • Peel the apple cut te apple into 4 sections. Then using a sharp knife cut out the core and pits and discard. Then cult the sections into thin slices.

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  • Open the can of sauerkraut or pour the contents of the package into a bowl.
  • Put the brown sugar in a ramekin or small bowl.

YOU ARE NOW READY TO COOK

  • Put the saute pan on a burner and pour in the oil. Tilt the pan back and forth so the oil covers the bottom.

Never pour cold oil into a hot pan!

  • Turn the burner on – to a medium high level.      Say # 8 on an electric stove — full up flame on gas then back off about one quarter.

TIP It helps to practice on a gas stove. See how low you can go before the flame dies, then move it up higher and higher until you have a blazing inferno.  Some gas stoves allow gradual heating others don’t.  Electric stoves though not preferred by cooks can be easier to control.

How do you know when the oil is hot enough?

TIP:Take a bread crumb and drop it into the oil. If you see little fizzy bubbles around it and it starts to brown,  you are fine. If it spurts and sizzles you are too hot. If it does nothing you are too cold.

Cooking AT LAST

When the pan passes the crumb test  you can start the browning process.

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Fannie says “Browning may be done under a broiler, in fat in a skillet, or in the oven,  The purpose is to sear, to seal in juices and to give good color.”

  • Pick up a pork chop with your tongs or fork and place it gently into the oil.

GENTLY — don’t drop it or the splattering oil will have created instant age spots on your hands.

  • Repeat this with the other pork chop.

You need to watch the pork chops and lift them slightly from the oil to see if a rich brown surface is forming. When you reach this level you turn the chop over and repeat the process until that side is browned. When both chops are browned, remove them from the pan and place them on a plate.

TIP: Browning is the stage before FRYING where meat, poultry or fish is cooked to completion in oil and turned frequently in the process to avoid charring. Usually, more oil is used in the frying process, unless you are using a non stick pan (I don’t own one). Because meat etc. remains in hot oil throughout cooking, it is customary to pat off the extra oil with a paper towel before serving.

Continuing:

You will notice that there are bits of brown meat etc. adhering to the bottom of the pan. You want to release these pieces and incorporate their flavor into a liquid. After you complete the next step.058

  • Put the onions and  apples in the pan and cook them quickly in the dripping/oil in the pan.

When the onions are translucent. . .

  • Add the garlic cook quickly and pour in the wine.

The wine will sizzle sputter and bubble. As it does, use your wooden spoon to scrape the bits of meat off the bottom of them pan. When you have scraped the meat bits into the liquid you have completed a process known as DEGLAZING.

Now

  • Add the sauerkraut and brown sugar to the liquid in the pan , mix everything together .060
  • Return the chops to the pan and press them into the bed of sauerkraut.

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  • Put the cover on the pan and reduce the heat to a very low point.

You are now Brazing!

During the braising process which will be approximately on half hr depending on the thickness of the chops, you will turn the pork and spoon some of the juices over the chops.

You may need to add more apple juice during the braising process as you don’t want the sauerkraut to dry out.

 HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN THE PORK IS COOKED?

The Traditional Way

The Finger Test to Check the Doneness of Meat

Open the palm of your hand. Relax the hand. Take the index finger of your other hand and push on the fleshy area between the thumb and the base of the palm. Make sure your hand is relaxed. This is what raw meat feels like. (Check this out the next time you have a raw steak to cook.)

Now gently press the tip of your pinky and your thumb together. Again feel the fleshy area below the thumb. It should feel quite firm. This is what well done meat feels like when you press on it. (Check this out the next time you overcook a piece of meat.)

Press the tip of your ring finger and your thumb together. The flesh beneath the thumb should give a little more. This is what meat cooked to a medium doneness feels like.

Gently press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. This is medium rare.

Press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The fleshy area below the thumb should give quite a bit. This is what meat cooked to rare feels like. Open up your palm again and compare raw to rare.

Remove a pork chop during the cooking process. Lets say 30 minutes. Press the center of the pork chop as described above. It should be medium.

The Techno Way

Purchase a digital thermometer. Remove the thickest pork chop from the pan, place it on a plate and insert the thermometer into the thickest partoft  he meat.  It should register 160 degrees.  It is done at this point.

You have just braised pork chops – SERVE THEM AND ENJOY! 

Penache Flash!

Once you have cooked this recipe it is time to think of anything you might do to this basic recipe to Kweer it up? Is there anything you might do that would completely change the taste of these braised pork chops. This is where you use your trained palate.  Go back to your food memory bank and recall tastes an meals you may have had.  You start to ask questions.

  • How would Italians make this dish?

I am attempting to replicate the thought process of one who cooks with  Panache.

  • Suppose I substituted something for the really German sauerkraut.

What could that be? Lets say you had broccoli rabe (rapini) in an Italian restaurant or maybe spinach cooked in garlic and oil, and you liked one or both. One is bitter (rapini) the other is sweet-metallic-garlicky (spinach). Think about it.  Couldn’t either go below your pork chops?And more garlic– maybe a clove or two more cut up.

  • Could I substitute something for the apples…   Pears?  Figs?  Orange wedges?
  • Could i deglaze the pan with red wine?

Perhaps. Remember the color of the meat and what red wine might do to it.

  • Is here a substitute for apple juice.   Orange juice?  Pear juice?

An inspiration?

A never to be lover gave you a bottle of Sambucca, saying everybody drinks this in Italy.”

You tasted it and politely and responded. “Tastes like licorice .. Interesting.” He answered, “Italians love fennel,” correcting your licorice remark.

This bottle has been in a closet for years waiting for some release from exile?

Suddenly the cooking Faerie appears and whispers in your ear and asks, “Honey would you ever eat a piece of pork and licorice at the same time?”

UGH!

You smile and thank the faerie for helping you avoid a cooking disaster.

Cooking with Panache

Lets say you have decided on the rapini.  You have choped it up and removed the tough stems.

Now you  dump it into the pan after you have cooked the onions, orange slices and garlic in the pork juices and deglazed the pan with white wine.   The rapini sputters wilts a bit and as you mix it into the onions releases liquid that you need for braising.

When You put the chops in the bed of rapini you check to see if there is enough liquid. If not you can add orange juice or some water.

When Your Italian Braised Pork is cooked, you enjoy it’s flavors and wonder could I make this dish Asian, Mexican —- PANACHE has taken over.

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